Diabetes Health

Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes – What’s the Connection?

The connection between obesity and type 2 diabetes is well-established. Obesity is a major risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. About 85% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. Therefore, it’s very important to maintain a healthy weight to protect yourself from type 2 diabetes.

The good news is that reducing your body weight, even a small amount, can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A 5% reduction in body weight and regular exercise can reduce the chance of type 2 diabetes by 50%.

What Is Obesity?

Obesity is a condition wherein an individual has too much body fat. How will you know if you’re obese? If your current weight is 20% higher than the normal weight (corresponding to your height), you are considered obese.

Another way to find out is through your Body Mass Index or BMI. If your BMI is 30 or higher, you’re already obese. To determine your BMI, you can search for online BMI calculators. Enter your height and weight, and your BMI will be displayed instantly.

You can also know your BMI by using this formula:

BMI = weight (in pounds) / height (in inches)² x 703

For example, a person who’s 6 feet tall and weighs 200 pounds has a BMI of:

BMI = 200 / (72)² x 703

= 27.12

The following are the weight classifications according to BMI:

  • BMI below 18.5 = underweight
  • BMI of 18.5 to 24.99 = normal weight
  • BMI of 25 to 29.99 = overweight
  • BMI of 30 to 34.99 = obesity (class 1)
  • BMI of 35 to 39.99 = obesity (class 2)
  • BMI of 40 or higher = morbid obesity

Genetics can play a role in being obese. It can influence your body type, including where your body fats will be deposited. Researchers believe that there’s a connection between abdominal fat and type 2 diabetes.

The risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases progressively as your Body Mass Index (BMI) increases. Research suggests that obese people are up to 80 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those with a BMI under 22.

Causes of Obesity 

Obesity is caused by eating too much but moving too little. If you consume high amounts of sugar and fat but don’t burn energy through physical activity and exercise, many excess calories will be stored as fat.

The following are the causes of obesity:

  1. Eating large amounts of fatty, sweet, and processed foods
  2. Drinking too many sugary drinks
  3. Drinking too much alcohol
  4. Sedentary lifestyle
  5. Genetics
  6. Medications
  7. Medical conditions 

How Obesity Causes Type 2 Diabetes

If you are obese, you’ve got a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, especially if you have excess fat around the abdominal area. Abdominal obesity (having a large waistline) is a high-risk form of obesity.

  • Reduced sensitivity to insulin – Fat cells in the abdomen release pro-inflammatory chemicals that can make the body less sensitive to insulin. This condition is known as insulin resistance – the precursor to type 2 diabetes.
  • Disruption in fat metabolism – Obesity can trigger changes in the body’s metabolism. It causes fat tissue to release fat molecules into the blood, affecting insulin-responsive cells. This can lead to reduced insulin sensitivity. Another theory of how obesity causes type 2 diabetes is that it can lead to prediabetes, which can become type 2 diabetes later.

Research shows that increased consumption of soda and other sugary beverages has led to a big increase in obese people. Studies also show that eating too much red meat and processed meats (especially hot dogs, sausages, and bacon) can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Scientific Research on How Obesity Causes Type 2 Diabetes

Scientists know that obesity is a major factor in developing type 2 diabetes. However, it is not yet very clear how excess weight causes this metabolic disease. Researchers at Harvard University discovered that obesity causes stress in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) – a network of membranes found inside the cells.

The endoplasmic reticulum is responsible for processing fats and proteins. It is the site where excess lipids or blood fats are processed. In the case of overweight and obese people, there is a state of overnutrition. All of those nutrients need to be stored, processed, and utilized.

The endoplasmic reticulum is flooded with much more nutrients than it can handle. As a result, the ER is overworked and starts sending out alarm signals. In response, the cells dampen their insulin receptors, which can lead to insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that converts blood glucose (sugar) to energy for the cells in the body.

In the case of obesity, a short-term adaptive response can become a long-term chronic illness. In obese people, the ER suppresses the cell’s normal response to insulin. Consequently, insulin loses its ability to regulate the body’s sugar levels.

How to Treat Obesity


Weight loss happens when energy expenditure is greater than energy intake. Limiting the consumption of complex carbohydrates can help in losing weight. Cut down on rice, white bread, sweet potatoes, and peas. Complex carbohydrates tend to raise blood glucose more than other foods.

Avoid eating too many sweets such as chocolates, donuts, cakes, and pastries. Control your consumption of red meat and processed food (hot dogs, deli meats, and bacon). Shy away from sugary beverages such as soft drinks and artificial juices.

Instead, eat more vegetables, fruits, chicken, and fish. Drink water instead of sweetened beverages. Eating fiber-rich foods can also help prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes. Dietary fiber can improve glycemic control. Foods rich in fiber aid in weight loss and maintenance by providing fewer calories per serving, creating a sense of fullness, and enhancing fullness between meals.

Physical activity

Regular physical activity improves insulin sensitivity and glycemic control. You can aim for 30 minutes of exercise daily, five times a week. The thirty minutes doesn’t have to be a single session. You can divide the activity into multiple short periods.

To make exercise a regular habit, choose activities you will enjoy or bring a friend or family member along. Some physical activities and exercises you can do include walking, jogging, dancing, swimming, and cycling.

Bariatric surgery

Bariatric surgery aims at people with a BMI higher than 40 or those with a BMI of 35 – 39.9 with accompanying medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.

There are three types of bariatric surgery – restrictive, malabsorptive, and a combination. Studies show that bariatric surgery can help manage not only obesity but type 2 diabetes as well. Aside from weight loss, the procedure also induces hormonal changes because of how food is stored and processed.

The Diabetes And Obesity Connection

There is a strong connection between obesity and type 2 diabetes. About 85% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. To protect yourself from the health complications of obesity, it is important to maintain a healthy weight.

The common cause of obesity is eating too much but moving too little. Being conscious of what (and how much) you eat, plus having regular exercise, can help a lot in losing weight. If you’re obese, losing five to 10% of your current weight can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by half.

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